Feature Article

Street Fighter 5 is a Bolder Reinvention Than Looks Suggest

We go hands-on with Necalli, Vega, and Ken at Gamescom.

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To the untrained eye, Street Fighter V may look like last year’s model with a fresh lick of paint. But for those who know the difference between QCF and HCB, the latest entry in the series will feel like the most aggressive shakeup of Street Fighter fundamentals since Third Strike.

If the game’s V-Skill and V-Trigger systems aren’t big enough indications of this, the changes made to veteran fighters such as Ken and Vega will be. But before we talk about the seasoned world warriors, let’s shine a spotlight on a newcomer.

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Necalli is the first brand new character announced for Street Fighter V. His background is shrouded in mystery, but it clearly involved hanging around with dangerous wild animals. He uses a feral style of fighting suited for close quarters, trapping his prey, frustrating them, and dealing big damage in a short space of time.

Necalli isn’t quick on his feet, but makes up for this with a set of tools useful for maneuvering into an advantageous positions and capitalizing on them. To close the distance, he has a lateral dash that ends with a scratching attack. Since this move has some armor, Necalli can take a normal single-hit fireball without flinching, which is sure to keep Hadoken-happy shoto players in check.

Once close, he can rely on his array of slow but powerful punches and kicks, slotting them in between the enemy’s poorly timed strikes to open them up. For those that turtle, Necalli has a answer in the form of a command grab. A half-circle-back-plus-punch motion that makes him snatch his prey off the ground, leap across the screen with them in tow, and slam them down; an excellent way to deal damage and move the opponent to the edge of the battlefield.

With his enemy stuck in the corner, poking and prodding normals are used to keep him or her pinned, and a Shoryuken-like rising scratch attack can shutdown attempts to jump away. It’s also a good anti-air to dissuade jump-ins. Finally, his dive kick is ideal for mix-ups and guessing games.

The most interesting aspects of Necalli, however, are his V-Skill and V-Trigger. With the the V-Skill, he stomps on the ground and creates a shockwave, which emerges either close, mid, or far range, depending on what direction the player is holding. This is a great way to control or limit enemy movements, and it can also be used as a particularly damaging ender on a target combo.

The main goal for Necalli players will be to fill the V-Trigger bar as quickly as possible, ideally through landing his V-Skill, but taking damage will also fill it up. Once activated, the V-Trigger transforms Necalli dramatically. Visually, his hair and tribal body markings begin to glow red, signifying him being consumed by power. When in this mode, new combos and a different Critical Art is unlocked. The frame data on all his moves also changes, which means--in essence--Necalli players are learning two characters, and opponents need to develop strategies for both variations.

Unlike other members of the character roster, the benefits bestowed by Necalli’s state change are permanent. Once he transforms, he stays that way for the remainder of the round. Smart players will be able train into behaving a certain way, then completely shift the dynamic of the battle by transforming into a character that behaves in drastically different ways.

Necalli didn’t play anything like I expected. Based on watching the trailers, he seemed almost like a substitute for Abel, a lithe grappler character who also piles on the pressure and punishes mistakes. While there are some similarities, overall Necalli moves at a much slower pace than Street Fighter 4’s French martial artist. His damage output potential makes him just as deadly, but he’s not as explosive a character. Instead, he is most effective with careful planning, as well as anticipating opponents, and the thirst to punish mistakes to their fullest.

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Narcissistic Spanish bullfighter Vega, meanwhile, has undergone significant changes that force you to throw away years of accumulated character knowledge. Vega has two different styles of fighting, which change depending on whether he is or isn’t equipped with his claw.

With the claw on, he’s a formidable ranged fighter who can keep enemies at bay with pokes, while quickly slipping in and out of the mid-range for footsies. Execute a fireball-plus-punch motion, however, and Vega will do a balletic twirl and remove his weapon, transforming into an aggressive character with a devastating command grab and higher combo potential.

Like with Necalli’s transformations, Vega's two modes are designed as a means to keep players on their toes. When they think they’ve figured out long-range claw strategies, Vega can switch to his fists and turn the heat on. The Spaniard's V-Skill, called the Matador Turn, functions as a dodge, which has an animation that is strikingly similar to the mode switch spin. This is by design, as it creates the opportunity to cause some confusion for players to take advantage of.

Long-time Vega players will need to change the way they think about and play him, not only because he’s no longer a charge character, but also because he now must capitalize on different situations than before. It takes time to get used to the changes, but for character specialists, fresh takes on old favorites like this are what make Street Fighter V an exciting prospect.

The changes Capcom is making to classic characters are significant and smart.

Finally, Ken has also undergone a major overhaul. Over the years, Capcom has slowly made changes to Ken to differentiate him from his sparring buddy Ryu, but the two have always walked parallel paths. Street Fighter V, however, is a pivot for the hot-headed brawler, who puts a decidedly American twist on the ancient Japanese fighting style. New Ken looks and feels closer to a kickboxer than a practitioner of a karate derivative.

At the centre of his gameplay style is his V-Skill, which launches Ken into a sprint towards his opponent. Depending on whether the player holds medium punch and medium kick, this can end with a lunging step kick. Ken faithfuls will immediately notice the reduced range of his normal attacks. This change has been made to encourage a playstyle oriented around aggressively rushing down and pursuing his opponent.

Almost all of Ken's normal attacks can be cancelled into his run, and the transition between a punch or kick into a run is fast. This ability to throw out a random normal, have it unexpectedly connect, and immediately dish out a crushing follow-up makes him feel unpredictable. Along with the changes made to the arc of his hurricane kicks and the combo potential unlocked by unleashing his V-Trigger--during which his feet actually catch fire--Ken has become more exciting to play than ever. He’s got a playful bounce, a cocky demeanor, and a commanding presence; the perfect pick for show-offs.

The changes Capcom is making to classic characters are significant and smart. Clearly there's been a great deal of thought put into making the Street Fighter V roster look and feel diverse. It’s exciting to see re-imagined characters that fans are deeply familiar with, and at the same time, newcomer Necalli feels like he has a lot of potential; a new puzzle for the fighting game community to solve.

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Tamoor Hussain

I am your OG and I will be respected as such

gamescom 2015

Join us as we travel to Cologne, Germany to cover gamescom, the world's largest video games event!
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22 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for deactivated-591a658d5ed11

Would love to see Blanca In Street Fighter V !

Avatar image for kaymai

can't wait to get back into the ebta for this. i hope i get to go to japan next year with my best and get the chance to play with the japanese players over there and learn as much as i can.

Avatar image for abe-20

I want Haggar instead of Zangief ^^

Avatar image for V-Nine

Capcom was paying attention to which direction the fighter was facing(even in the character select screen). Looks like its out the window with Vega. Back to lazy mirror technique...sigh.

Avatar image for cso

@V-Nine: It's a stylistic decision so that the moves look the same for both 1p and 2p side, not a lack of attention to detail. It would be actually easier to just flip the 3d model and automatically have the claw in the original hand but they purposely switch the claw so it's always in the hand that's facing the camera. They did the same thing in SF4 and in Marvel vs Capcom 3 with things like Captain America's shield or Super Skrull's arms, just to name a couple of examples.

Avatar image for V-Nine

@cso: Understood.

Avatar image for DuaMn

I've already decided to main Necalli. Well played.

Avatar image for finalfantasy94

Based on watching the trailers, he seemed almost like a substitute for Abel

I hope abel isint gone. He was my favorite new edition in 4.

Avatar image for Bandit_Haze

I was considering giving this one a miss. Now, I'm considering getting it.

Avatar image for deliciouspoints

tl;dr. In other words GET A VIDEO!! thank you..

Avatar image for skootbootz

@deliciouspoints: They don't care you both clicked and commented. Their job is done money has been made.

Avatar image for the_6r

Necalli looks great. Will definitely main.

Avatar image for remoticons

sounds cool, i never got into SF after SF II i think but i do remember the good old days where i always played with Blanca...

Avatar image for roxor3

@remoticons: I'm in the same boat, haven't played SF since SF II, lol Blanca damn him and his smug celebration after winning :D

I might give this a try.

Avatar image for remoticons

@roxor3: yeah haha, i might give it a try this time around, been a while.

Avatar image for Pelezinho777


Avatar image for xeidog69

I know why they would want to differentiate Ken, However he and Ryo trained together, they learned the same techniques in their early years and than proceeded to travel the world fighting and learning and honing their skills. Are they going to change this aspect of the originals? either way, looking forward to this game, just hoping they dont make too many changes that conflicts with original timelines or stories. Kickboxing pfff...

Avatar image for FallenOneX

@xeidog69: Having the same master doesn't always mean they will both have the same level of skill in all facets of their martial art. Ryu mastered the Hadoken, Ken preferred the Dragon Punch. Don't forget, after they parted ways, Ryu continued to travel, and Ken fought professionally in the US. Batman talks about this quite often actually.....

Avatar image for remoticons

@xeidog69: but the last year Ken has been training in an american kickboxing club where he fell in love with his new style since he was struggling finding passion in his old ways...

there... a new story for the new style =P...

Avatar image for evagelios

@xeidog69: ... Ryu. His name is Ryu. And Ken can do what he wants. Hell, I knew Tae Kwon Do by the time I was 17, and then learned some kickboxing and Jiu-Jitsu. It's not that hard. As for being cocky, Ken has the right to be cocky. He has skill, he's won SF, he's an icon to that world more than Ryu is.

Avatar image for AM-Gamer

@evagelios: meh , no he's not Ryu is Street Fighter. Ken is the Luigi is Street Fighter. Basically a second best side kick.

Avatar image for ACMC85

@evagelios: Ryo is a new version of Ryu. Just like this. Sometimes I don't get why these aren't just new characters.